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I am about to enter a PhD program, and I am very interested in learning about opportunities that allow me to go abroad after I finish. During my undergraduate career, I studied in China for a year, and I really enjoyed the environment of learning new languages and living in a different culture.

Specifically, I want to know about some of the challenges that one might have in looking for university or research positions in non-Western countries, and subsequently, how one might transition back to the United States after having spent a considerable amount of time abroad (5+ years). I have felt that math is a universal topic, and many universities abroad (especially in Asian and central Asian countries) would have faculty positions for English speaking PhDs to move there. However, I don't have any information to justify these beliefs.

I'm not as concerned about salary or ending up at a prestigious research university. I really enjoy teaching and working with students, and I enjoy math enough that any position that would allow me to continue working in mathematics and with students would be acceptable. Am I entirely off base in hoping to find positions abroad? What are some challenges that I might not have considered?

EDIT: I should have clarified. I am an American student beginning a program in the United States. In that context, then, what are things that an American PhD should be aware of when looking for opportunities in non-Western countries, such as those in Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Africa, etc.?

  • Somewhat related: academia.stackexchange.com/q/2689/948 – Aru Ray Jul 21 '15 at 17:10
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    Abroad is relative. – gerrit Jul 21 '15 at 17:23
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    Here where I live, a better question would be "are there reasonable career options for math phds who don't want to work abroad?" – Federico Poloni Jul 21 '15 at 17:35
  • I've edited the question to make it more specific to what I was intending to ask. Thank you for the feedback! – Collinn Jul 21 '15 at 22:33
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This answer is mostly for Asia. Yes, there are programs in at least Japan and Korea (that I am aware of) for American Ph.D to find a job, including professorship.

I think the largest difference/challenge you will face is that many times, being a student and working in Asian countries such as China, Japan, Korea, is very different. In general, the faculty, students, local businesses, etc. are happy to accommodate students spending some time in their region, learning their language, and living. Systems are in place for this and the universities most often actively encourage it.

Meetings

As a professor it can be (but not always) different. Unless you learn the language fluently before you go, think about your new colleagues and how they will feel, being required to speak to you in a language other than their own. Not necessarily about the weather, but more importantly (what I noticed) is in faculty meetings, budget decisions, etc. In this case, you can easily be the only person not able to understand, which leaves two options: you are left out of the meetings or everyone else is forced to speak your language (if they can).

You mention not caring about prestige, but I would caution you that many 'bad' universities have a lower chance of faculty being comfortable in English.

Administration

Beyond faculty, which may or may not speak English, you still will have administration to deal with. Do you assume your contract will be in English? While some online university systems are in English, I have seen many parts that are not, such as the email system in English, but the login systems or vacation registration is not.

Culture

Of course, you need to think about culture. The idea of Asian culture may allure you, but remember it is not always what it seems (just as people going to America find out). In at least Japan and Korea, Impact Factor is the largest measure of performance, and you must follow it. Be ready to change your work style if it does not fit into the way you are evaluated.

Resources

You can check https://www.higheredjobs.com/international/ for international job postings.

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A supplement to @user1938107's excellent answer about Asia. There are some future career issues you need to think about before you come to Asia to work.

The first one is tenure. Many Asian countries offer only visiting professorships to western scholars. Those visiting professors do get higher salary than local people. But, most of them are not permanent positions. In other words, you'll need to look for another job somewhere else after a few years when the contract expires.

Another issue is sabbatical leave. Because you are a visiting professor, you don't get sabbatical leave. You are free to go anywhere in the world, but there is no guarantee that you'll get the same position when you come back.

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